UNMC dedicates its 'crown jewel'
Dignitaries laud Chancellor's vision, donors' generosity
World-class vision, leadership and generosity have led to the opening of UNMC’s crown jewel – the Durham Research Center.
On a crisp November Thursday, a standing-room only crowd filled the 319-seat auditorium to celebrate the dedication of the Durham Research Center and pay tribute to the generous philanthropists who made the building a reality.
"This Citadel for research will create an environment that will allow those who occupy it to make advances in the health sciences and add incrementally to the benefit of society," said University of Nebraska Foundation President Terry Fairfield. "This investment of individuals has enabled us to have a future that’s exciting and boundless."
UNMC’s research funding from external sources is at an all-time high – now exceeding $62 million annually. Just five years ago, it was $30 million, Dr. Maurer said. "We’re well on our way to $100 million by 2005. Our dream of being a leader in research is becoming a reality."
"Research is the best investment you can make," said Charles Durham, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Durham Resources, after unveiling a plaque in his honor. The plaque, which will hang in the Durham Research Center atrium, reads: "Charles W. Durham: Champion of medical research to prevent, cure, give hope and advance the common good."
Durham’s gift – the largest in UNMC history – led the fund-raising effort for the $77 million building, which was built almost exclusively with private funds. Of the research center’s cost, Nebraska’s Congressional delegation secured $2.5 million in federal funds for the project. The private sector provided gifts for the rest of the cost; no state funds were involved. Durham’s contribution is not being made public at his request.
A second plaque, also unveiled Thursday, highlights the principal donors of the Durham Research Center:
The Peter Kiewit Foundation.
Suzanne and Walter Scott Jr.
Ruth and Bill Scott.
Stanley Truhlsen, M.D.
Mary and Dick Holland.
The Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Memorial Foundation.
Gail Walling Yanney, M.D., and Michael Yanney.
A donor who has asked to remain anonymous.
The plaque also will hang in the building’s glass-enclosed atrium.
The Durham Research Center will further put Nebraska on the map, said Roger Bulger, M.D., president of the Association of Academic Health Centers. "Whether it’s on bioterrorism or public health infrastructure creative clinical arrangements or educational innovations or global health I find the University of Nebraska is there with a model. . . . Their name is out there."
Buildings such as the Durham Research Center, he said, explain a Research America survey that says 85 percent to 90 percent of Americans want more invested in research. "Now that’s powerful," Dr. Bulger said. "It says something about the staying power of this building."
Researchers will begin moving into the 10-level building in stages from December through March. Among them will be Pascale Lane, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics, who will conduct kidney research on the sixth floor. Dr. Maurer and Tom Rosenquist, vice chancellor for research "have inspired us to reach new heights with our research," she said. "We’re going to do our part to make the good life even better."
During the hour-long dedication, a number of dignitaries shared their thoughts on UNMC’s newest building. "It’s a crown jewel and a powerful recruiting tool," said University of Nebraska President L. Dennis Smith, Ph.D., who began his career as a biological sciences researcher. "It will enable us to recruit the best new faculty and elevate current faculty to superstar status."
Similar to Durham, businessman Walter Scott said he invests in projects that benefit the future, that showcase excellence and that attract new minds and retain the best and brightest.
The vision for the Durham Research Center is a shining example of how excellence in education, research and health care "can make life better for all of us," said U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson.
The crowd smiled when U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel remarked: "(This shows) the world that the community of Nebraska is far more than just the center of the universe."
Lt. Gov. Dave Heineman summed up his remarks in the form of a researcher’s mathematical equation saying: "The world-class vision of Chancellor Hal Maurer plus the world-class vision of the medical center staff, the world-class leadership of Walter Scott, Ken Stinson, Mike Yanney and others, plus the world-class generosity of Chuck Durham, equals the world-class University of Nebraska Medical Center."
Mayor Mike Fahey called the Durham Research Center a "shining star for Omaha," which would carve a strategic niche for future economic growth and help revitalize Omaha’s central neighborhoods.
Ken Stinson, chairman of the board for UNMC’s hospital partner, The Nebraska Medical Center, praised the clinical and educational partnership. "The value of a clinical organization having a relationship with a top-tier medical school and research institution is immeasurable," he said. "As UNMC researchers advance the frontier of medical knowledge their discoveries will lead to better patient care and patient treatment."
The Durham Research Center is 289,000 gross square feet, and towers over the western edge of UNMC. The research center features 116 research laboratories, a 319-seat auditorium, three classrooms and 12 conference/seminar rooms. About 55 of UNMC’s top researchers, accounting for nearly $55 million in extramural support, will move to the building. About 25 percent of the building’s space is being left open for research expansion and the recruitment of new, top-level researchers.
The plaza area adjoining the Durham Research Center – 45th Street from Emile Street to Dewey Avenue and Dewey Avenue from 45th Street to 44th Street – has been named the Durham Research Plaza.
"Chuck has helped propel UNMC forward," Dr. Maurer said. "We’re eternally grateful to this true champion."